REVIEW: ‘I Want You Back’ is the Best of Awkward Desperation

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I Want You Back - But Why Tho

Romantic comedies have a formula. There’s a meet-cute, some bonding, a dramatic tension, a confession, and a happy ending. But even in their predictability, the journey to the endpoint is what matters and where great rom-coms can thrive. That’s the case for I Want You Back, a rom-com that is all about the impending dread of dying alone that breaking up with a long-time partner in your 30s spawns. Directed by Jason Orley, the film is written by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger and stars Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, and Gina Rodriguez.

I Want You Back starts sad with Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate)  blindsided by break-ups with long-time partners. And when I say blindsided, I mean these poor souls had no idea there was ever anything wrong – or just refused to see it.  Peter is too boring for Anne (Gina Rodriguez) and Emma just can’t get her life together enough for Noah (Scott Eastwood).  When the two meet crying in a stairwell Peter and Emma decide to spend their misery together only for their venting and crying and, well, drinking. As their friendship develops their consideration turns into a mission when they see on social media that their exes have not only moved on but are beyond happy. Still stuck on wanting their old relationships back, Emma’s job is to break up Anne and Logan(Manny Jacinto) while Peter must break up Noah (Manny Jacinto) and Ginny (Clark Backo).

So let’s be real. The main driving story force in I Want You Back is horrible. Setting out to destroy the lives of the people who dumped you only to get them back is just a special kind of desperation that has a level of meanness to it. That said, the film is cognizant of it, with both Peter and Emma questioning their actions at different points. Regardless of the morality of their plots (this is a rom-com after all), I Want You Back manages to capture the awkward desperation of thinking that your 30s are the end of your life. Sure, Peter and Emma want their exes back, but the film is more concerned in showcasing that our leads are driven by fear of change and being alone that masks itself as love.

And that’s the point of this rom-com. Sure there is a meet-cute and the typical formula, and we know that Peter and Emma are hurling towards each other from the jump, but the stark fear and loneliness we get for most of the film is what makes I Want You Back something great. There is a fear that comes with breaking up after years of being with a person, but that is magnified when it happens in the “settle-down period” of life that society pushes. That fear is a catalyst for the film and brings with it all the awkward desperation that can be mustered. Additionally, with Day and Slate as leads, there is a natural comedy that comes from the two that also works as awkward but relatable chemistry. There are a lot of laughs in I Want You Back and a lot of them come by using awkward situations played against serious moments or from the signature vocal comedy you can expect from our leads. 

I Want You Back is a great Valentine’s movie for those who have been through break-ups or are just not paired off for this capitalistic holiday. Emma has to realize what drives her, and that wanting someone isn’t the same as loving someone. Peter has to learn what real support looks like, and the type of person he really needs to help him thrive. Each character has to grow over the course of the film and that growth from desperation is what makes I Want You Back a stellar watch.

If you’re a rom-com fan or just love either Charlie Day or Jenny Slate, I Want You Back is one to watch. Plus sometimes a rom-com should be about the journey and not just the romance, that’s where this one shines.

I Want You Back is streaming exclusively on Prime Video on February 11, 2022.


I Want You Back
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

If you’re a rom-com fan or just love either Charlie Day or Jenny Slate, I Want You Back is one to watch. Plus sometimes a rom-com should be about the journey and not just the romance, that’s where this one shines.